What Can A Cyber Fraud Attorney From My Rights Law Do For Me?
If you have been charged with cyber fraud in California, then you should contact a cyber crimes lawyer at My Rights Law. When you hire My Rights Law, you get a firm with substantial experience in winning cases. We will clarify your legal options and aggressively defend you. Call My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 or contact us by submitting our secure web form to set up a free consultation.
Just as there is no single offense referred to as “cyberbullying” under California law, there is no single offense known as “cyber fraud.” Like cyberbullying, cyber fraud is an umbrella term that refers to multiple crimes that fit within this broader category. Also known as “Internet fraud” and “cybercrime,” cyber fraud most commonly refers to phishing activities, fraudulent schemes, identity theft, and the unauthorized access of computers or electronic information without permission.
Internet fraud crimes are very contextual. Most cyber fraud crimes can either be classified as state crimes or federal crimes, depending on a variety of circumstances. Similarly, most cyber fraud crimes may either be classified as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the unique elements that define the alleged offense.
As there are so many nuanced factors that influence the prosecution of cyber fraud crimes, defensive strategies that might be used to refute such allegations must be similarly nuanced. If you have been investigated for cyber crimes by one or more law enforcement agencies and charged with an offense, it is critically important to speak with an attorney who has extensive experience successfully defending against such charges. Working with a law firm who understands how to craft a thorough and detailed defense is almost certainly going to be key to decreasing the risk of being convicted.
Identity Theft – California Penal Code 530.5
The crime of identity theft doesn’t always involve electronic communications. It is possible to steal someone’s identity without using the Internet. However, in the Digital Age, identity theft is a form of cyber fraud far more often than it isn’t.
When attempts or acts of identity theft are initiated using electronic means, these efforts may or may not involve “phishing.” Phishing generally refers to the act of trying to appear like a legitimate enterprise when attempting to trick someone into revealing personal identifying information or financial information.
Under California law, anyone can be convicted of identity theft if they willfully secure someone else’s identifying personal information and use it for an unlawful purpose without that individual’s consent. Unlawful purposes for which identifying information may be utilized include obtaining (or attempting to obtain) credit or other financing, medical information, real property, goods, or services.
Similarly, one can be convicted of identity theft – as a form of cyber fraud or more generally – if they transfer, sell, or otherwise convey the personal identifying information belonging to another without that individual’s consent. To be convicted of this crime, it must be proven that the defendant intended to defraud when selling, transferring, or conveying the information in question. Like the base identity theft crime detailed above, this identity fraud “variation” offense requires specific intent.
Because specific intent is an element of the crime of identity theft, effectively disproving that a defendant had the requisite intent when committing the other elements of the crime can be a winning defensive strategy against this type of cyber fraud crime. Similarly, proving that a defendant had the alleged victim’s permission to use their personal identifying information can serve as a successful defensive strategy against such charges as well.
Most of the time, identity theft is classified as a misdemeanor and may be punishable by a term of incarceration in county jail for no more than one year and a fine.
Credit Card Fraud – California Penal Code 484(e)
Under California law, credit card fraud is categorized as a type of larceny. Like identity theft, credit card fraud doesn’t necessarily need to be committed via electronic means. However, this kind of fraud occurs online far often, given how Americans now store and access their financial data and given how an increasing number of Americans purchase goods and services electronically.
Like identity theft, the crime of credit card fraud requires that a defendant intended to defraud the victim as they transfer, sell, or otherwise convey their credit card account information without their consent. This act is a type of grand theft. Grand theft is a “wobbler” offense, which means that it can be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on several factors. If charged as a felony, this crime is punishable by a term of incarceration in state prison for no more than three years.
Unauthorized Computer Use – California Penal Code 502
California law also makes hacking for an unlawful purpose a crime. Under California’s hacking statute – referred to as the Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act – accessing a computer, data stored on a computer, or a computer network without the permission of the owner is a crime, provided that the offender has accessed these resources for an unlawful purpose.
This act renders a few nuanced scenarios illegal. Each scenario involves different elements and is punishable by somewhat different sentencing limits. Most of the detailed scenarios outlined in the statute are wobbler offenses and, as such, can be charged as misdemeanors or felonies, depending upon the circumstances. If you’ve been accused of any kind of hacking or unauthorized use offense, it is imperative that you speak with a computer crimes or internet crimes attorney for a free consultation concerning the charges levied against you and what you’ll risk if convicted.
Federal Cyber Fraud Charges
Some Internet fraud activities are prosecuted not as state crimes but as federal crimes. For example, most “scams” are federal offenses. Perhaps most influential is the wire fraud law that allows federal officials to prosecute scams that operate via email or the Internet. To be convicted of wire fraud, it must be established in federal court that a defendant planned or schemed to commit fraud, intended to defraud the victims, and utilized electronic means to further or achieve those ends. Those convicted of wire fraud face the risk of being sentenced to steep fines, a term of incarceration up to 20 years in federal prison, or both.
Wire fraud is not the only form of cyber fraud punishable under federal law. If you have questions about whether the charges you’re facing will be prosecuted at the state or federal level, a criminal defense law firm can help to clarify your situation. Call My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 or contact us by filling out our secure web form for a free, confidential consultation